Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Forgiveness is simply the religious word for letting go. To forgive reality is to let go of the negative story line, the painful story line that you’ve created for it. If that story line has become your identity, if you are choosing to live in a victim state, an abused consciousness, it gives you a false kind of power and makes you feel morally superior to others. But let me tell you, it will also destroy you. It will make you smaller and smaller as you get older. You will find that you have fewer and fewer people you can trust, fewer and fewer people, if any, that you can love. Life itself becomes a threat. Your comfort zone becomes tinier and tinier.
Thankfully, God has given us a way to not let the disappointments, hurts, betrayals, and rejections of life destroy us. It is the art of letting go. If we can forgive and let go, if we don’t hold our hurts against history and against one another, we will indeed be following Jesus. The wounds of the crucified Jesus symbolize sacred wounds, transformative wounds that do not turn him bitter. After the crucifixion, there’s no record of Jesus wanting to blame anybody or accuse anybody. In fact, his last words are breathing forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
If we are to follow Jesus, he says we’re simply to forgive one another as God has forgiven us. He says we should forgive one another not seven times, but “seventy times seven times” (Matt 18:22). What that implies, first of all, is that God is all mercy and all forgiving in God’s very nature. But it also implies that Jesus knows we are going to make mistakes. He assumes human beings are going to hurt one another and do it wrong—maybe even seventy times seven times. This should keep us all humble.
— Richard Rohr from The Art of Letting Go
The act of forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts of spiritual life. It enables us and the world to be released from the sorrows of the past. Forgiveness is an act of the heart, a movement to let go of the resentment and outrage that we have carried for too long. It eases the burden of pain in our heart. To forgive does not mean we condone the misdeeds of another or ever allow them again. It acknowledges that no matter what how much we may have suffered, we will not put another human being out of our heart. We have all be hared, just as we have all, at times, harmed ourselves and others.
For most people, forgives is a process. The work of forgiveness goes through many stages, during which you may feel grief, rage, sorrow, fear, and confusion. In the end, when you let yourself feel the pain you carry, forgives comes as a relief, as a release for your heart. You will see that forgiveness is fundamentally for your own sake, a way to let go of the pain of the past.
To practice forgiveness meditation, let yourself sit comfortably, allowing your eyes to close and your breath to be natural and easy. Let your body and mind relax. Breathing gently into the area of your heart, let yourself feel all the barriers you have erected and the emotions that you have carried because you have not forgiven — not forgiven yourself, not forgiven others. Let yourself feel the pain of keeping your heart closed. Then, breathing softly, begin asking and extending forgiveness, reciting the following words, letting the images and feelings that come up grow deeper as you repeat them.
FORGIVENESS OF OTHERS: There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed others, have betrayed or abandoned them, caused them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of my pain, fear, anger, and confusion. Let yourself remember and visualize the ways you have hurt others. See and feel the pain you have caused out of your own fear and confusion. Feel your own sorrow and regret. Sense that finally you can release this burden and ask for forgiveness. Picture each memory that still burdens your heart. And then to each person in your mind repeat: I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.
FORGIVENESS FOR YOURSELF: There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself. I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times through thought, word, or deed, knowingly and unknowingly. Feel your own precious body and life. Let yourself see the ways you have hurt or harmed yourself. Picture them, remember them. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this and sense that you can release these burdens. Extend forgiveness for each of them, one by one. Repeat to yourself: For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain, and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself, I forgive myself.
FORGIVENESS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HURT OR HARMED YOU: There are many ways I have been harmed by others, abused or abandoned, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word, or deed. Let yourself picture and remember these many ways. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this past and sense that you can release this burden of pain by extending forgiveness when your heart is ready. Now say to yourself: I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion, and anger. I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.
Let yourself gently repeat these three directions for forgiveness until you feel a release in your heart. For some great pains you may not feel a release but only the burden and the anguish or anger you have held. Touch this softly. Be forgiving of yourself for not being ready to let go and move on. Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving kindness.
— Jack Kornfield from Buddha’s Little Instruction Book
See Everything; Judge Little; Forgive Much
As you spiritually mature, you can forgive your own—and others’—mistakes. You can let go of everyone who hurt you, your former spouse, the boss who fired you, the church, or even God. You have no interest in carrying around negative baggage. Wisdom emerges when you can see everything, you eliminate none of it, and you include all as important training. Finally, everything belongs. You are eventually able to say, from some larger place that may surprise you, “It is what it is” and “Even the ‘bad’ was good.”
Forgiveness is the Christian form of nonviolence, but we never got really good at it because we did not incorporate it as a full and all-pervasive philosophy of life as it was for some Eastern religions or even as found in the Western A Course in Miracles. When Christians ignore parts of their own message, it seems the Spirit always gets another group to emphasize it and spread it. Like flowing water, God always finds a way through.
Receptive, flowing people are the ones who change the world and transform history. Their possibilities are limitless, because they do not let any seeming barriers stop their path; in fact they well up from within until they can surmount any obstacle. “Be like water” is a good piece of advice.
— Richard Rohr adapted from A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations